HL Deb 30 July 1906 vol 162 cc327-8

rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether it was proposed to reconsider the sentences passed by Mr. Justice Lawrence on July 6th, at the Gloucestershire Assizes, in connection with the rioting at Leck-hampton Hill. The noble Earl said: My Lords, since I put this question on the Paper I understand that the matter has been mentioned in another place. What I wish is to ask whether these sentences are having the consideration of His Majesty's Government, and, if so, to urge that a speedy decision is desirable as the men have already been twenty-four days in prison.

I do not know whether the House are familiar with the circumstances, but the dispute arose out of an assertion of a right of way. It was not a case of mob violence or of any desire to destroy property in a wanton manner. There were altogether eight prisoners tried, convicted, and sentenced; and in particular I should like to call the attention of His Majesty's Government to one of them—a man named Barrett. This man, according to the evidence, took no part either in the rioting or in the actual demolition. I am informed that he simply made a speech to the crowd, the object of which was to invite them not to riot but to disperse peaceably, and he himself was not there when the violent proceedings took place. I will quote a few words from the summing up of Mr. Justice Lawrence to show your Lordships the spirit in which this matter was placed before the jury— the Judge, in summing up, said that what irritated him more than anything was the man who got up and made a speech when there was no occasion for it. There were some people who, when they saw an eminence, could not help getting on to it like a goat and making speeches. This reminded him of a great statesman who, whenever he stopped at a railway station, could not refrain from getting out of the train and making speeches. Barrett was one of that class of persons. I am told that this does not at all represent the attitude of this particular defendant, and if the Home Office on investigation should come, to that conclusion I do urge that they should come to it soon, because the man has been sentenced to four months imprisonment and has been in prison twenty-four days.


My Lords, the answer to the question put to His Majesty Government by the noble Earl is in the affirmative. The matter is under consideration and representations with regard to it have been received by the Secretary of State. At the same time the noble Earl will not expect me to give him any hint of the decision to which the Secretary of State is likely to arrive. But I may tell the noble Earl that he is now in communication with the Judge who tried the case and hopes to be able to announce his decision before very long. I will see that what the noble Earl has said with regard to the special case of Barrett is brought to the attention of the Home Secretary.